Jan 312018
 

Today is the birthday (1872) of Pearl Zane Grey, US author (and dentist), best known for his popular adventure novels and stories associated with the Western genre in literature and the arts. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) was his best-selling book. In addition to the commercial success of his printed works, they had second lives and continuing influence when adapted as films and television productions. His novels and short stories have been adapted into 112 films, two television episodes, and a television series, Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater.

Grey was born in Zanesville, Ohio. His birth name may have originated from newspaper descriptions of Queen Victoria’s mourning clothes as “pearl grey.” He was the fourth of five children born to Alice “Allie” Josephine Zane, whose English Quaker immigrant ancestor Robert Zane migrated to the North American colonies in 1673, and her husband, Lewis M. Gray, a dentist. His family changed the spelling of their last name to “Grey” after his birth. Later Grey dropped Pearl and used Zane as his first name. He grew up in Zanesville, a city founded by his maternal great-grandfather Ebenezer Zane, an American Revolutionary War patriot, and from an early age, he was intrigued by history. Grey developed interests in fishing, baseball, and writing, all of which contributed to his writing success. His first three novels recounted the heroism of ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

As a child, Grey frequently engaged in violent brawls even though they resulted in frequent beatings from his father. Grey found a father figure in Muddy Miser, an old man who approved of Grey’s love of fishing and writing, and who talked about the advantages of an unconventional life. Despite warnings by Grey’s father to steer clear of Miser, Grey spent considerable time during five formative years in the company of the old man.

Grey was an avid reader of adventure stories such as Robinson Crusoe and the Leatherstocking Tales, as well as dime novels featuring Buffalo Bill and Deadwood Dick. He was enthralled by and crudely copied the great illustrators Howard Pyle and Frederic Remington. He was particularly impressed with Our Western Border, a history of the Ohio frontier that likely inspired his earliest novels. He wrote his first story, “Jim of the Cave,” when he was 15. His father tore it to shreds and beat him. Both Zane and his brother Romer were active, athletic boys who were enthusiastic baseball players and fishermen.

Due to shame from a severe financial setback in 1889 caused by a poor investment, Lewis Grey moved his family from Zanesville and started again in Columbus, Ohio. While his father struggled to re-establish his dental practice, Zane Grey made rural house calls and performed basic extractions, which his father had taught him. The younger Grey practiced until the state board intervened. He also played summer baseball for the Columbus Capitols, with aspirations of becoming a major league player. Eventually, he was spotted by a baseball scout and received offers from many colleges.

Grey chose the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, where he studied dentistry. When he arrived at Penn, he had to prove himself worthy of a scholarship before receiving it. He rose to the occasion by coming in to pitch against the Riverton club, pitching five scoreless innings and producing a double in the tenth which contributed to the win. Grey was a solid hitter and an excellent pitcher who relied on a sharply dropping curve ball. When the distance from the pitcher’s mound to the plate was lengthened by ten feet in 1894 (primarily to reduce the dominance of Cy Young’s pitching), the effectiveness of Grey’s pitching suffered. He was re-positioned to the outfield but remained a campus hero on the strength of his hitting.

He was an indifferent scholar, barely achieving a minimum average. Outside class he spent his time on baseball, swimming, and creative writing, especially poetry. Grey struggled with the idea of becoming a writer or baseball player for his career but concluded that dentistry was the practical choice. He went on to play minor league baseball with several teams, including the Newark, New Jersey Colts in 1898 and also with the Orange Athletic Club for several years.

After graduating, Grey established his practice in New York City under the name of Dr. Zane Grey in 1896. It was a competitive area but he wanted to be close to publishers. He began to write in the evening to offset the tedium of his dental practice. Whenever possible, he played baseball with the Orange Athletic Club in New Jersey.

Grey often went camping with his brother in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where they fished in the upper Delaware River. When canoeing in 1900, Grey met 17-year-old Lina Roth, better known as “Dolly”. Dolly came from a family of physicians and was studying to be a schoolteacher. After a passionate and intense courtship marked by frequent quarrels, Grey and Dolly married 5 years later in 1905. Grey suffered bouts of depression, anger, and mood swings, which affected him most of his life. During his courtship of Dolly, Grey still saw previous girlfriends and warned her frankly,

But I love to be free. I cannot change my spots. The ordinary man is satisfied with a moderate income, a home, wife, children, and all that…. But I am a million miles from being that kind of man and no amount of trying will ever do any good… I shall never lose the spirit of my interest in women.

After they married in 1905, Dolly gave up her teaching career. They moved to a farmhouse at the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers, in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where Grey’s mother and sister joined them. (This house, now preserved and operated as the Zane Grey Museum, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.) I used to visit quite often because Lackawaxen is on the old Delaware and Hudson canal as was the house where I lived, and both my village and Lackawaxen were sites of suspension aqueducts built by John Roebling before he designed the Brooklyn Bridge.

While Dolly managed Grey’s career and raised their three children over the next two decades, Grey often spent months away from the family. He fished, wrote, and spent time with his many mistresses. While Dolly knew of his behavior, she tolerated it. In addition to her considerable editorial skills, she had good business sense and handled all his contract negotiations with publishers, agents, and movie studios. All his income was split 50-50 with her. From her half she covered all family expenses. Their considerable correspondence shows evidence of his lasting love for her despite his infidelities and personal emotional turmoil.

With the help of Dolly’s proofreading and copy editing, Grey gradually improved his writing. His first magazine article, “A Day on the Delaware,” a human-interest story about a Grey brothers’ fishing expedition, was published in the May 1902 issue of Recreation magazine. Around this time, Grey read Owen Wister’s Western novel The Virginian. After studying its style and structure in detail, he decided to write a full-length work. Grey had difficulties in writing his first novel, Betty Zane (1903). The novel dramatized the heroism of an ancestor who had saved Fort Henry. When it was rejected by Harper & Brothers, he lapsed into despair and self-published it, probably with money borrowed from family.

After attending a lecture in New York in 1907 by Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones, western hunter and guide who had co-founded Garden City, Kansas, Grey arranged for a mountain lion-hunting trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He took along a camera to document his trips and also began the habit of taking copious notes, not only of scenery and activities, but also of dialogue. He gained the confidence to write convincingly about the American West, its characters, and its landscape. Treacherous river crossings, unpredictable beasts, bone-chilling cold, searing heat, parching thirst, bad water, irascible tempers, and heroic cooperation all became real to him.

Upon returning home in 1909, Grey wrote a new novel, The Last of the Plainsmen, describing the adventures of Buffalo Jones. Harper’s editor Ripley Hitchcock rejected it, the fourth work in a row. He told Grey, “I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction.” Grey wrote dejectedly,

I don’t know which way to turn. I cannot decide what to write next. That which I desire to write does not seem to be what the editors want… I am full of stories and zeal and fire… yet I am inhibited by doubt, by fear that my feeling for life is false.

I know the feeling. I’d estimate I have had close to 100 rejection letters from publishers. It’s depressing, but you either keep trying or give up.

With the birth of his first child pending, Grey felt compelled to complete his next novel, The Heritage of the Desert. He wrote it in four months in 1910. It quickly became a bestseller. Two years later Grey produced his best-known book, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), his all-time best-seller, and one of the most successful Western novels of all time. After that Harper eagerly received all his manuscripts.

The Greys moved to California in 1918. In 1920 they settled in Altadena, California, where Grey bought a prominent mansion on East Mariposa Street.  By this time Grey had both the time and money to engage in his great passion for fishing. From 1918 until 1932, he was a regular contributor to Outdoor Life magazine. He kept a cabin in Oregon, and also began deep-see fishing in Florida, and later in Australia and New Zealand (where his fishing lodge is still a popular tourist destination), and also regularly in Tahiti.

Zane Grey died of heart failure on October 23, 1939, at his home in Altadena, California. He was interred at the Lackawaxen and Union Cemetery, Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.

There is a Zane Grey Cookbook which you’d think had recipes from Grey’s notes, or memories of dishes he’d cooked around the campfire. Not so. The only thing Zane Grey about the book is the title. The recipes in it are collections of ideas for dishes he might have enjoyed. On the other hand, I used to live on the Neversink River, a tributary of the Delaware where Grey fished, and a well-known fly-fishing spot. The Delaware and tributaries are legendary spots for brook trout. Brook trout is one of the best fish to grill or pan fry when caught fresh. For me, it depended on whether I had my fire pit cranked up or not, whether I grilled it over wood coals or pan fried it. It’s best over coals, but a bit of a chore if you have only one fish.

If you have a fish that was just caught, as I often did, preparation is very simple. There are no heavy scales to remove. You need a good sharp, pointed knife. Slit the belly open from just below the throat to the base of the tail. Slice through the meat only so that you do not pierce any of the guts. Insert a finger in the slit and remove the intestines, stomach, and other entrails. Then wash the cavity in running water, and pat the fish dry, inside and out, with paper towels.

Depending on the size of the fish it will cook in only a few minutes as long as the pan or grill is good and hot before you start cooking. When using my cast-iron skillet, I rubbed it with a paper towel moistened with olive oil, and then heated it to smoking and laid in the fish. About 3 minutes on one side was enough, then turn and cook it on the other side. You have to be a little careful turning the fish because it can break easily. I used a very wide spatula. For fire grilling, they make special grilling baskets that are hinged, so that the fish is secured inside, and you can flip it simply by turning the whole basket over by the handles.

You can put lemon slices and/or fresh herbs and butter in the cavity before cooking, but I never used to. Brook trout has an interesting, delicate flavor that I am happy to eat without any additional flavorings. When I cooked outdoors I would also grill some corn on the cob to go along with the fish. There are many ways to do this, but I used to shuck the corn completely, then wrap it in foil smeared with butter.

Mar 022017
 

Today is the birthday (1902) of Morris “Moe” Berg, Major League baseball player and coach who later served as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Although he played 15 seasons in the major leagues, almost entirely for four American League teams, Berg was never more than an average player, usually used as a backup catcher, and was better known for being “the brainiest guy in baseball” than for anything he accomplished in the game. Casey Stengel once described Berg as “the strangest man ever to play baseball.”

Moe Berg was the third and last child of Bernard Berg, a pharmacist, and Rose Tashker, both Jewish, who lived in the Harlem section of New York City, a few blocks from the Polo Grounds. In 1910 the Berg family moved to the Roseville section of Newark because Bernard wanted to live in a less Jewish neighborhood. Moe began playing baseball at the age of seven for the Roseville Methodist Episcopal Church baseball team under the less Jewish pseudonym Runt Wolfe. In 1918, at the age of 16, he graduated from Barringer High School. During his senior season, the Newark Star-Eagle selected a nine-man “dream team” for 1918 from the city’s best prep and public high school baseball players, and Berg was named the team’s third baseman. Barringer was the first in a series of institutions Berg joined in his life where his religion made him unusual. Most of the other students were East Side Italian Catholics or Protestants from Forest Hill.

After graduating from Barringer, Berg enrolled in New York University. He spent two semesters there and played baseball and basketball. In 1919 he transferred to Princeton University and never again mentioned that he had attended NYU for a year. He received a B.A., magna cum laude in modern languages. He had studied seven languages: Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Sanskrit, studying with the philologist Harold H. Bender.

During his freshman year, Berg played first base on an undefeated team. Beginning in his sophomore year, he was the starting shortstop. He was not a great hitter and was a slow base runner, but he had a strong, accurate throwing arm and sound baseball instincts. In his senior season, he was captain of the team and had a .337 batting average, batting .611 against Princeton’s arch-rivals, Harvard and Yale. Berg and Crossan Cooper, Princeton’s second baseman, signaled plays in Latin when there was a man on second base.

On June 26, 1923, Yale defeated Princeton 5–1 at Yankee Stadium to win the Big Three title. Berg had an outstanding day, getting two hits in four at bats (2–4) with a single and a double, and making several great plays at shortstop. Both the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Robins (i.e., Dodgers) wanted “Jewish blood” on their teams, to appeal to the large Jewish community in New York, and expressed interest in Berg after the game. The Giants were especially interested, but they already had two future Hall of Famers at shortstop, Dave “Beauty” Bancroft and Travis Jackson. On June 27, 1923, Berg signed his first big league contract for $5,000 ($70,000 today) with the Robins and played in his first major league game against the Philadelphia Phillies at the Baker Bowl the same day. Berg came in at the start of the seventh inning, replacing Ivy Olson at shortstop, when the Robins were winning 13–4. Berg handled five chances without an error and caught a line drive to start a game-ending double play. He got a hit in two at bats, singling up the middle against Clarence Mitchell, and scoring a run. But . . . for the season, Berg batted .187 and made 21 errors in 47 games.  Thus ended his National League career.

After the season ended, Berg took his first trip abroad, sailing from New York to Paris. He settled in the Latin Quarter in an apartment that overlooked the Sorbonne, where he enrolled in 32 different classes. In Paris he developed a habit he kept for the rest of his life: reading several newspapers daily. Until he finished reading a paper, he considered it “alive” and refused to let anyone else touch it. When he was finished with it, he would consider the paper “dead” and anybody could read it.

During spring training at the Robins’ facility in Clearwater, Florida, manager Wilbert Robinson could see that Berg’s hitting had not improved, and optioned him to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. Berg did not take the demotion well and threatened to quit baseball, but by mid-April he reported to the Millers. Berg did very well once he became the Millers’ regular third baseman, hitting close to .330, but in July his average plummeted and he was back on the bench. On August 19, 1924 Berg was loaned to the Toledo Mud Hens, a poor team ravaged by injuries. Berg was immediately inserted into the lineup at shortstop when Rabbit Helgeth refused to pay a $10 ($140 today) fine for poor play and was suspended. Major league scout Mike González sent a telegram to the Dodgers evaluating Berg with the curt, but now famous, line, “Good field, no hit.” Berg finished the season with a .264 average.

By April 1925, he was starting to show promise as a hitter with the Reading Keystones of the International League. Because of his .311 batting average and 124 runs batted in, the Chicago White Sox exercised their option they had with Reading, paying $6,000 ($82,000 today) for him, and moved Berg up to the big leagues the following year.

The 1926 season began with Berg telling the White Sox that he would skip spring training and the first two months of the season to complete his first year of law school at Columbia University, and so did not join the White Sox until May 28. Bill Hunnefield was signed by the White Sox to take Berg’s place at shortstop, and was having a very good year, batting over .300. Berg played in only 41 games, batting .221.

Berg returned to Columbia after the season to continue working on his law degree. Despite White Sox owner Charles Comiskey offering him more money to come to spring training, Berg declined, and informed the White Sox that he would be reporting late for the 1927 season. Noel Dowling, a professor to whom Berg explained his situation, told Berg to take extra classes in the fall, and said that he would arrange with the dean a leave of absence from law school the following year, 1928.

Because he reported late, Berg spent the first three months of the season on the bench. In August, a series of injuries to catchers Ray Schalk, Harry McCurdy and Buck Crouse left the White Sox in need of somebody to play the position. Schalk, the White Sox player/manager, selected Berg, who did a good job filling in. Schalk arranged for former Philadelphia Phillies catcher Frank Bruggy to meet the team at their next game, against the New York Yankees. Bruggy was so fat that pitcher Ted Lyons refused to pitch to him. When Schalk asked him whom he wanted as his catcher, Lyons selected Berg.

In Berg’s debut as a starting catcher, he had to worry not only about catching Lyons’ knuckleball, but also about facing the Yankees’ Murderers’ Row lineup, which included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Earle Combs. Lyons beat the Yankees 6–3, holding Ruth hitless. Berg made the defensive play of the game when he caught a poor throw from the outfield, spun and tagged out Joe Dugan at the plate. He caught eight more times during the final month and a half of the season.

At law school, Berg failed Evidence and did not graduate with the class of 1929, but he did pass the New York State bar exam. He repeated the Evidence course the following year, and on February 26, 1930 received his LL.B. On April 6, during an exhibition game against the Little Rock Travelers, his spikes caught in the soil as he tried to change directions and he tore a knee ligament.

He was back in the starting lineup on May 23, 1930, but his knee would not allow him to play every day. He played in only 20 games the whole season and finished with a .115 batting average. During the winter, he took a job with the respected Wall Street law firm Satterlee and Canfield (now Satterlee, Stephens, Burke & Burke). The Cleveland Indians picked him up on April 2, 1931 when Chicago put him on waivers, but he played in only 10 games with 13 at-bats and only 1 hit for the entire season. That year Dave Harris, Senators’ outfielder, when told that Berg spoke seven languages, replied:

“Yeah, I know, and he can’t hit in any of them.”

The Indians gave him his unconditional release in January 1932, but with catchers hard to come by, Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators, invited him to spring training in Biloxi, Mississippi. He made the team, playing in 75 games while not committing an error. When starting catcher Roy Spencer went down with an injury, Berg stepped in, throwing out 35 base runners while batting .236.

Retired ballplayer Herb Hunter arranged for three players, Berg, Lefty O’Doul and Ted Lyons, to go to Japan to teach baseball seminars at Japanese universities during the winter of 1932. On October 22, 1932, the group of three players began their circuit of Meiji, Waseda, Rikkyo, Todai (Tokyo Imperial), Hosei, and Keio universities, the members of the Tokyo Big6 Baseball League. When the other Americans returned to the United States after their coaching assignments were over, Berg stayed behind to explore Japan. He went on to tour Manchuria, Shanghai, Peking, Indochina, Siam, India, Egypt and Berlin.

Despite his desire to go back to Japan, Berg reported to the Senators’ training camp on February 26, 1933 in Biloxi. He played in just 40 games during the season, and batted only .185. The Senators won the pennant, but lost to the Giants in the World Series. Cliff Bolton, the Senators’ starting catcher in 1933, demanded more money in 1934. When the Senators refused to pay him more, he sat out and Berg got the starting job. On April 22, Berg made an error, his first fielding mistake since 1932—an American League record of 117 consecutive errorless games. On July 25, the Senators gave Berg his unconditional release. He soon returned to the big leagues, however, after Cleveland Indians catcher Glenn Myatt broke his ankle on August 1. Indians manager Walter Johnson, who had managed Berg in 1932, offered Berg the reserve catching job. Berg played sporadically until Frankie Pytlak, Cleveland’s starting catcher, injured himself, and Berg became the starting catcher.

Herb Hunter arranged for a group of All-Stars, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averill, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Gomez, to tour Japan playing exhibitions against a Japanese all-star team. Despite the fact that Berg was a mediocre, third-string catcher, he was invited at the last minute to make the trip. Among the items Berg took with him to Japan were a 16-mm Bell & Howell movie camera and a letter from MovietoneNews, a New York City newsreel production company with which Berg had contracted to film the sights of his trip. When the team arrived in Japan, he gave a welcome speech in Japanese and also addressed the legislature.

After his return to the U.S. Berg was picked up by the Boston Red Sox. In his five seasons with the Red Sox, Berg averaged fewer than 30 games a season. On February 21, 1939, Berg made his first of three appearances on the radio quiz show, Information, Please. Berg put on a dazzling performance. Of his appearance, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis told him, “Berg, in just thirty minutes you did more for baseball than I’ve done the entire time I’ve been commissioner.” After his playing career ended, Berg was a Red Sox coach in 1940 and 1941.

With the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, the United States entered into World War II. To do his part for the war effort, Berg accepted a position with Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs on January 5, 1942. Nine days later, his father, Bernard, died. During the summer of 1942, Berg screened the footage he shot of Tokyo Bay for intelligence officers of the United States military. The film may have helped Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle plan his famous Doolittle Raid.

From August 1942 to February 1943, Berg was on assignment in the Caribbean and South America. His job was to monitor the health and physical fitness of the U.S. troops stationed there. Berg, along with several other OIAA agents, left in June 1943 because they thought South America posed little threat to the United States. On August 2, 1943, Berg accepted a position with the Office of Strategic Services Special Operations Branch (SO) for a salary of $3,800 ($52,600 today) a year. He was a paramilitary operations officer in the part of the OSS that is now called the CIA Special Activities Division. In September, he was assigned to the OSS Secret Intelligence branch (SI) and given a spot on the OSS SI Balkans desk. In this role, he parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia to evaluate the various resistance groups operating against the Nazis to determine which was the strongest. He talked to both Draža Mihailović and Tito and reviewed their forces, deciding that Tito had the stronger and better supported group. His evaluations were used to help determine the amount of support and aid to give each group. In late 1943, Berg was assigned to Project Larson, an OSS operation set up by OSS Chief of Special Projects John Shaheen. The stated purpose of the project was to kidnap Italian rocket and missile specialists out of Italy and bring them to the U.S. However, there was another project hidden within Larson, called Project AZUSA, with the goal of interviewing Italian physicists to see what they knew about Werner Heisenberg and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. It was similar in scope and mission to the Alsos project.

From May to mid-December 1944, Berg hopped around Europe interviewing physicists and trying to convince several to leave Europe and work in the U.S. At the beginning of December, news about Heisenberg giving a lecture in Zürich reached the OSS. Berg was assigned to attend the lecture and determine “if anything Heisenberg said convinced him the Germans were close to a bomb.” If Berg came to the conclusion that the Germans were close, he had orders to shoot Heisenberg; Berg determined that the Germans were not close. During his time in Switzerland, Berg became close friends with physicist Paul Scherrer. Berg returned to the United States on April 25, 1945, and resigned from the Strategic Services Unit, the successor to the OSS, in August. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom on October 10, but he rejected the award on December 2. His sister accepted it on his behalf after his death.

In 1946, former Chicago White Sox teammate Ted Lyons was the new manager of the White Sox, and offered Berg a coaching position. Berg declined. Boston Red Sox owner Thomas Yawkey, who was much closer to Berg when he played for Red Sox, matched Lyons’ offer, but Berg still turned them down. Berg did not apply for a teaching position, or join a law firm.

In 1951, Berg begged the CIA to send him to Israel. “A Jew must do this,” he wrote in his notebook. The CIA rejected Berg’s request. The same year Berg was hired by the CIA to use his old contacts from World War II to gather information about the Soviet atomic science but returned with nothing. He continued to serve his assignment for the CIA until 1954, when his contract expired and the CIA chose not to renew it.

For the next 20 years, Berg had no real job, living off friends and relatives. Berg received many requests to write his memoirs, but turned them down; he almost wrote them in 1960, but he quit after the co-writer assigned to him confused him with Moe Howard of the Three Stooges.

Moe Berg died on May 29, 1972, at age 70, from injuries sustained in a fall at home. A nurse at the Belleville, New Jersey, hospital where he died recalled his final words as “How did the Mets do today?” (They won.) His remains were cremated and spread over Mount Scopus in Israel.

In April 2016, it was announced that actor Paul Rudd will portray Berg in an upcoming biographical drama film called The Catcher Was a Spy, based on the book of the same name. The film will be directed by Ben Lewin and is likely to be released in 2017.

You should definitely have a kosher hot dog to celebrate today. Nowadays a number of major league baseball stadiums have kosher food stands and, of course, their standards include kosher ballpark franks. Kosher franks are certainly high quality in general because the laws of kashruth forbid many of the nastier fillers and ingredients. They have to be all meat, although what part of the animal it comes from is far from clear.

I’ll take mine on a kosher bun with certified kosher sauerkraut and mustard please. (At ballparks the “please” is optional.)

 

 

Apr 182016
 

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On this date in 1981, the longest game in professional baseball history began, between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, two teams from the Triple-A International League. It lasted for 33 innings, with eight hours and 25 minutes of playing time. 32 innings were played April 18/19, 1981 at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and the final 33rd inning was played June 23, 1981. Pawtucket won the game, 3–2.

One of the reasons I loved baseball when I lived in New York (Mets fan), is its quirkiness, especially when it comes to issues of time and space. W. P. Kinsella, who wrote Shoeless Joe (which became the movie Field of Dreams) and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy is one of several madmen obsessed with baseball whom I admire. He too is captivated by the fact that baseball is determined by its own internal rules (and contradictions) and not by external factors. So, for example, the length of any game is determined by play, not by a clock. An inning for example could, in theory, last 10 minutes, or 2 hours depending on play. If the score is tied after 9 innings there’s no telling how long it will go on for. Likewise, the ball park is theoretically limitless in size. The foul lines can be extended ad infinitum. This fact has led Kinsella to argue that all points in the universe are within the foul lines of every major league ball park. He needs a geometry lesson, but you get the point.

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The game in question here began on Saturday, April 18, 1981 at 8:25 p.m., after a delay of about 30 minutes due to problems with stadium lights, with 1,740 in attendance. It continued through the night and into Easter morning. Although most leagues have a curfew rule that would have suspended the game—the International League’s activates at 12:50 a.m.—the rule book that the home plate umpire Dennis Cregg had did not contain this rule. After Pawtucket’s Russ Laribee’s sacrifice fly drove in Chico Walker in the bottom of the ninth inning and tied the game at one run each, the teams continued playing.

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Several times, one side neared victory before circumstances changed. When Wade Boggs drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 21st inning after a Rochester run, even the Pawtucket players groaned. He recalled that, “I didn’t know if the guys on the team wanted to hug me or slug me.” The weather was so cold that players burned broken bats and the stadium’s wooden benches to warm themselves, and the clubhouses ran out of food. The wind blew into the infield, making hits difficult; Pawtucket’s Dave Koza later claimed that otherwise his team would have won in nine innings, with “four or five shots that would have been out of the park”. For example, Sam Bowen hit a fly ball to center that reportedly left the field before the wind blew it back to Rochester outfielder Dallas Williams. Williams went 0–for–13 in 15 plate appearances, one of many records achieved during the game.

Dan Berry

After Pawtucket’s Luis Aponte pitched the 7th to 10th innings in relief, manager Joe Morgan—who himself would be ejected in the 22nd inning by Cregg—let him leave before the game ended. Aponte’s wife did not believe his explanation for coming home at 3 a.m. Sunday. He promised that the Sunday newspaper would prove his story, but since the game’s postponement occurred too late to appear in it, Aponte had to wait until the Monday edition. Cregg had brought his nephew David to the game; David’s father became concerned for his family and called the police, who told him that the game had not ended.

By 4 a.m. the players were quoted as being “delirious from exhaustion.” Rochester’s Dave Huppert had caught the first 31 innings before being replaced, and Jim Umbarger pitched 10 scoreless innings from the 23rd inning, striking out nine and giving up four hits. The president of the league, Harold Cooper, was finally reached on the phone by Pawtucket public relations manager Mike Tamburro some time after 3:00 a.m. The horrified Cooper ordered that play stop at the end of the current inning. Finally at 4:07 a.m., at the end of the 32nd inning and more than eight hours after it began, the game was stopped. There were 19 fans left in the seats—not including David Cregg, who had fallen asleep—all of whom received season or lifetime passes to McCoy Stadium. As the players went home to rest before returning at 11 a.m. for an afternoon game that Sunday, they saw people going to Easter sunrise services. When Boggs’ father complimented him for getting four hits in the game, he admitted that he had had 12 at bats.

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Both teams signed a baseball on Sunday for display at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooper had suggested that the game resume that day, but Rochester manager Doc Edwards requested a delay because of the risk of injury. Instead, it resumed on the evening of Tuesday, June 23, the next time the Red Wings were in town. A sellout crowd of 5,746 and 140 reporters from around the world were present, partly because the major leagues were on strike at the time; the players voted against an offer to resume the game at Fenway Park to avoid crossing the picket line. On that evening, it took just one inning and 18 minutes to finish the game, with Koza driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 33rd. The losing pitcher was Steve Grilli, who had joined Rochester in the interim since the game’s suspension.

Russ Laribee of the PawSox went 0–for–11 with a sacrifice fly, striking out seven times, becoming the first player in history to surpass the titanium sombrero (six strikeout) level. Based on a nine-inning game, Laribee would only have struck out three times per nine innings.

Between the two teams, pitchers faced a total of 246 batters (219 AB, 23 BB, 4 HBP).

A total of 882 pitches were thrown.

Pawtucket’s Dave Koza had the most hits of any player in the game: five, including the game-winner.

53 runners were left on base (30 by Rochester and 23 by Pawtucket).

Two future Hall of Famers were part of the historic game. Cal Ripken, Jr., who was inducted in 2007, went 2–for–13 on the night playing third base for Rochester. Ripken was the American League’s Rookie of the Year the following year. Wade Boggs, who was inducted in 2005, played third base for Pawtucket and went 4–for–12 with a double and an RBI. The Baseball Hall of Fame possesses other artifacts of the game, including the official scorecard.

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23 other future major leaguers played in the game.

From Pawtucket:

Bob Ojeda, the winner of the game after pitching a scoreless 33rd inning, would go on to pitch for 15 major league seasons, most notably for the New York Mets (going 18–5 in 1986 to help the team win the World Series that year), Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers. While many of Pawtucket’s players would play key roles in the 1986 World Series as members of the Boston Red Sox, Ojeda would go on to play for their opponent, the New York Mets. He then became the lone survivor in a boat crash that claimed the lives of two other pitchers in spring training before Ojeda’s first season with the Cleveland Indians.

Bruce Hurst pitched for 15 seasons in the majors for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres. His career record was 145–113, a .562 winning percentage.

Rich Gedman caught for the Boston Red Sox for most of his 13-year major league career.

Marty Barrett played ten major league seasons at second base for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres, hitting .278 for his career.

Chico Walker later played 11 seasons in the majors with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, California Angels, and New York Mets.

Mike Smithson started 204 games for the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Boston Red Sox.

Manny Sarmiento pitched in 228 major league games for the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Luis Aponte made 110 pitching appearances as a reliever with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.

Julio Valdez played 65 games with the Boston Red Sox, mostly serving as a shortstop and second baseman.

From Rochester:

Floyd Rayford went on to play third base and catch for seven years with the Baltimore Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals. His best year was 1985, when he hit .306 with 18 home runs and 48 RBI.

Jim Umbarger appeared in 133 games as a pitcher for the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics between 1975 and 1978. He pitched in the minors until 1983.

Steve Grilli’s major league career was already over by the time he pitched in (and lost) this game. Grilli pitched in 69 games for the Detroit Tigers from 1975–77, and one game as a Toronto Blue Jay in 1979. Grilli, the father of Jason Grilli, retired from baseball at the end of the 1981 season.

Cliff Speck went on to pitch for the Atlanta Braves in 1986, appearing in 13 games, including one start.

Mark Corey played in 59 games in his three years as a Baltimore Oriole outfielder.

Bobby Bonner played for four years in the early ’80s as a middle-infielder with the Baltimore Orioles.

Strictly speaking I shouldn’t be advocating anything but a hot dog to celebrate this game, and I’m about to put one on to heat as I am writing. However, I’ve covered hot dogs extensively before. On the other hand, Pawtucket is dubiously famous for its chili recipe, so let’s go with that. If you want you can pour some over a hot dog.  The thing about this recipe, which is not really far out of the ordinary, is that it is meatless.

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Pawtucket Chili

Ingredients

40 oz can kidney beans (or two 16 oz cans)
15 oz can chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz tomato sauce
14¼ oz can whole tomatoes
1 tbsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp basil
3 tbsp chili powder

Instructions

Sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil in a heavy pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low heat for about an hour. You want the sauce to thicken as it cooks down.

That’s it folks. A great deal quicker than the game !! Serve in deep bowls, topped with shredded cheese if you like. I add a good dose of hot sauce.

Oct 042015
 

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Today is the birthday (1880) of Alfred Damon Runyon a New York newspaperman and author who is most well known for his short stories celebrating the world of Broadway in New York City that grew out of the Prohibition era. To New Yorkers of his generation, a “Damon Runyon character” evoked a distinctive social type from the Brooklyn or Midtown demi-monde. The adjective “Runyonesque” refers to this type of character as well as to the type of situations and dialog that Runyon depicted. For years an omnibus volume of Runyon’s stories sat on my bedside table, along with the complete works of e. e. cummings, a Sherlock Holmes compendium, as well as other assorted reading material that came and went. I like to read just for pleasure, but I always have an eye out for certain kinds of writing style which I suppose influences me in a way when I write. Runyon I could never imitate; wouldn’t even try. I do very much like a writer whose style is immediately recognizable.

Runyon was born Alfred Damon Runyan to Alfred Lee and Elizabeth (Damon) Runyan. His relatives in Manhattan, Kansas included several newspapermen. His grandfather was a newspaper printer from New Jersey who had relocated to Manhattan, Kansas in 1855, and his father was editor of his own newspaper in the town. In 1882 Runyon’s father was forced to sell his newspaper, and the family moved westward. The family eventually settled in Pueblo, Colorado in 1887, where Runyon spent the rest of his youth. By most accounts, he only attended school through the fourth grade. He began to work in the newspaper trade under his father in Pueblo.

In 1898, when still in his early teens, Runyon enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in the Spanish–American War. While in the service, he was assigned to write for the Manila Freedom and Soldier’s Letter. After his military service, he worked for various Colorado newspapers, beginning in Pueblo. His first job as a reporter began in September 1900, when he was hired by the Pueblo Star; he then worked in the Rocky Mountain area during the first decade of the 1900s: at the Denver Daily News, he served as “sporting editor” and then worked as a staff writer. His expertise was in covering the semi-professional teams in Colorado; he even briefly managed a semi-pro team in Trinidad, CO. At one of the newspapers where he worked, the spelling of his last name was changed from “Runyan” to “Runyon,” a change he let stand.

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Runyon moved to New York City in 1910. In his first New York byline, the American editor dropped the “Alfred” and the name “Damon Runyon” appeared for the first time. For the next ten years he covered the New York Giants and professional boxing for the New York American. He was the Hearst newspapers’ baseball columnist for many years, beginning in 1911, and his knack for spotting the eccentric and the unusual, on the field or in the stands, is credited with revolutionizing the way baseball was covered. Runyon was inducted into the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. He is also a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame and is known for dubbing heavyweight champion James J. Braddock, the “Cinderella Man”. Runyon frequently contributed sports poems to the American on boxing and baseball themes, and also wrote numerous short stories and essays.

Gambling, particularly on craps or horse races, was a common theme of Runyon’s works, and he was a notorious gambler himself. One of his paraphrases from a well-known line in Ecclesiastes ran: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.” A heavy drinker as a young man, he seems to have quit drinking soon after arriving in New York, after his drinking nearly cost him the courtship of the woman who became his first wife, Ellen Egan. He remained a heavy smoker.

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His best friend was mobster accountant Otto Berman, and he incorporated Berman into several of his stories under the alias “Regret, the horse player.” When Berman was killed in a hit on Berman’s boss, Dutch Schultz, Runyon quickly assumed the role of damage control for his deceased friend, correcting erroneous press releases (including one that stated Berman was one of Schultz’s gunmen, to which Runyon replied, “Otto would have been as effective a bodyguard as a two-year-old.”).

Runyon’s marriage to Ellen Egan produced two children (Mary and Damon, Jr.), but broke up in 1928 over rumors that Runyon had become infatuated with Patrice Amati del Grande, a Mexican woman he had first met while covering the Pancho Villa raids in 1916 and discovered once again in New York, when she called the American seeking him out. Runyon had promised her in Mexico that if she would complete the education he paid for her, he would find her a dancing job in New York. She became his companion after he separated from his wife. After Ellen Runyon died of the effects of her own drinking problems, Runyon and Patrice married; that marriage ended in 1946 when Patrice left Runyon for another, younger, man.

Runyon died in New York City from throat cancer in late 1946, at age 66. His body was cremated, and his ashes were illegally scattered from a DC-3 airplane over Broadway in Manhattan by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker on December 18, 1946.

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Frank Muir comments that Runyon’s plots were, in the manner of O. Henry, neatly constructed with professionally wrought endings, but their distinction lay in the manner of their telling, as the author invented a peculiar argot for his characters to speak. Runyon almost totally avoids the past tense (English humorist E.C. Bentley thought there was only one instance, and was willing to “lay plenty of 6 to 5 that it is nothing but a misprint”) and makes little use of the future tense, using the present for both. He also avoided the conditional, using instead the future indicative in situations that would normally require a conditional. For example: “Now most any doll on Broadway will be very glad indeed to have Handsome Jack Madigan give her a tumble.”

The comic effect of his style results partly from the juxtaposition of broad slang with mock-pomposity. Women, when not “dolls”, “Judies”, “pancakes”, “tomatoes”, or “broads”, may be “characters of a female nature”, for example. He typically avoided contractions such as “don’t” in the example above, which also contributes significantly to the humorously pompous effect. In one sequence, a gangster tells another character to do as he’s told, or else “find another world in which to live.”

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Runyon’s short stories are told in the first person by a protagonist who is never named, and whose role is unclear; he knows many gangsters and does not appear to have a job, but he does not admit to any criminal involvement, and seems to be largely a bystander. He describes himself as “being known to one and all as a guy who is just around”.

Here’s a couple of short excerpts just for the hell of it.

If I have all the tears that are shed on Broadway by guys in love, I will have enough salt water to start an opposition ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific, with enough left over to run the Great Salt Lake out of business. But I wish to say I never shed any of these tears personally, because I am never in love, and furthermore, barring a bad break, I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus, and I tell the little guy as much.

One of these days … a guy is going to come up to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the Jack of Spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you are standing there, you are going to end up with an earful of cider.

Runyon’s fictional world is also known to the general public through the musical Guys and Dolls based on two of his stories, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure”. The musical additionally borrows characters and story elements from a few other Runyon stories, most notably “Pick The Winner.” The film Little Miss Marker (and its two remakes, Sorrowful Jones and the 1980 Little Miss Marker) grew from his short story of the same name. All told there are 20 plays and movies based on Runyon’s stories. Here’s my favorite number from Guys and Dolls:

Let’s start the recipe section with this advertisement for hot dogs supposedly served at Runyon’s table. If  you click to enlarge you can read the advertising copy.

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I have no doubt that this story is disconnected from reality. I would certainly hope that Runyon would not have a dinner of franks with onion cups stuffed with creamed, diced carrots followed by butterscotch pudding. It sounds revolting. However, Runyon did apparently have a liking for tripe. This from the start of the story “Blonde Mink”:

Now of course there are many different ways of cooking tripe but personally I prefer it stewed with tomatoes and mushrooms and a bit of garlic and in fact I am partaking of a portion in this form in Mindy’s restaurant on Broadway one evening in January when a personality by the name of Julie the Starker sits down at my table and leans over and sniffs my dish and says to me like this:

“Tripe,” he says. “With garlic,” he says. “Why, this is according to the recipe of the late Slats Slavin, who obtains it from his old Aunt Margaret in Troy. Waiter,” he says, “bring me an order of this delicious concoction only with more garlic. It is getting colder outside and a guy needs garlic in his system to thicken his blood. Well,” he says, “this is indeed a coincidence because I just come from visiting the late Slats and having a small chat with him.”

And this from the middle of “Pick the Winner,”

Now what happens one evening, but Hot Horse Herbie and his ever-loving fiancée, Miss Cutie Singleton, and me are in a little grease joint on Second Street putting on the old hot tripe à la Creole, which is a very pleasant dish, and by no means expensive, when who wanders in but Professor Woodhead.

Naturally Herbie calls him over to our table and introduces Professor Woodhead to Miss Cutie Singleton, and Professor Woodhead sits there with us looking at Miss Cutie Singleton with great interest, although Miss Cutie Singleton is at this time feeling somewhat peevish because it is the fourth evening hand running she has to eat tripe à la Creole, and Miss Cutie Singleton does not care for tripe under any circumstances.

Italian and Italian-American cuisine features tripe in tomato sauce with various additions and flavorings. I’ve had all manner of different styles in both New York and Italy. Tripe with tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic sounds fine. Tripe à la Creole is a well known, slightly more complicated dish.

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Tripe à la Creole

Ingredients

2 lbs cooked tripe cut in strips
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 onions, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp chopped ham
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 14 oz can diced plum tomatoes
1 green pepper, sliced
salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and gently sauté the garlic, onion. ham and green pepper, until the onion is translucent. Add the plum tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Add the lemon juice, thyme, and bay leaves, and season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.  Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Add water or light stock if the sauce starts to dry out. Add in the tripe and heat through. Serve over spaghetti or linguine. You can grate Romano or Parmesan cheese over the top if you like, but it is not to my taste. I do, however, sometimes sprinkle red pepper flakes on top.

Jun 192015
 

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On this date in 1846 the first officially recorded, organized baseball game was played under Alexander Cartwright’s rules on Hoboken, New Jersey’s Elysian Fields, with the New York Base Ball Club defeating the Knickerbockers 23-1. Cartwright umpired. Cartwright is one of several people sometimes referred to as the “father of baseball.” He is thought to be the first person to draw a diagram of a diamond-shaped baseball field, and the rules of the modern game are based on the Knickerbocker Rules developed by Cartwright and a committee from his club, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. Cartwright was officially declared the inventor of the modern game of baseball by the 83rd United States Congress on June 3, 1953.

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Whilst he was a member of Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 12 of the New York City Fire Department, Cartwright became involved in playing town ball (an older game similar to baseball) on a vacant lot in Manhattan. In 1845 the lot became unavailable for use, and the group was forced to look for another location. They found a playing field, the Elysian Fields, a large tree-filled parkland across the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey run by Colonel John Stevens, who charged $75 a year to rent it. In order to pay the rental fees, Cartwright organized a ball club so that he could collect the needed money. The club was named the “Knickerbockers” in honor of the fire company. The Knickerbockers club was organized on September 23, 1845.

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Creating a club for the ball players called for a formal set of rules for each member to adhere to, foremost among them to “have the reputation of a gentleman.” Cartwright, along with other players, formalized the “Knickerbocker Rules”:

Members must strictly observe the time agreed upon for exercise, and be punctual in their attendance.

When assembled for exercise, the President, or in his absence, the Vice-President, shall appoint an umpire, who shall keep the game in a book provided for that purpose, and note all violations of the By-Laws and Rules during the time of exercise.

The presiding officer shall designate two members as Captains, who shall retire and make the match to be played, observing at the same time that the players opposite to each other should be as nearly equal as possible, the choice of sides to be then tossed for, and the first in hand to be decided in like manner.

The bases shall be from “home” to second base, forty-two paces; from first to third base, forty-two paces, equidistant.

No stump match shall be played on a regular day of exercise.

If there should not be a sufficient number of members of the Club present at the time agreed upon to commence exercise, gentlemen not members may be chosen in to make up the match, which shall not be broken up to take in members that may afterwards appear; but in all cases, members shall have the preference, when present, at the making of a match.

If members appear after the game is commenced, they may be chosen in if mutually agreed upon.

The game to consist of twenty-one counts, or aces; but at the conclusion an equal number of hands must be played.

The ball must be pitched, not thrown, for the bat.

A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of first or third base, is foul.

Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught, is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and the striker bound to run.

If a ball be struck, or tipped, and caught, either flying or on the first bound, it is a hand out.

A player running the bases shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.

A player running who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base, is a hand out.

Three hands out, all out.

Players must take their strike in regular turn.

All disputes and differences relative to the game, to be decided by the Umpire, from which there is no appeal.

No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.

A runner cannot be put out in making one base, when a balk is made by the pitcher.

But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck.

It is likely that Cartwright et al picked some of these twenty rules based upon town ball play in Manhattan. The original rules of play at the vacant lot in Manhattan were not documented so it cannot be said which rules were Cartwright’s own invention. The twenty rules, the shape of the playing area, for example, differed from other early versions of baseball and from rounders, the English game commonly considered the immediate ancestor of baseball. Two of these rules — the one that abolished putting a runner out by hitting him with a thrown ball and the one that designated a foul as a do-over were clearly new.

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As evidenced from these rules, the first games were played between teams made up of members of the club, filled in for by “gentlemen” onlookers if they did not have enough members to make up two teams. The formation of the Knickerbockers club, across the Hudson, created a division in the group of Manhattan players. Several of the players refused to cross the river on a ferry to play ball because they did not like the distance away from home.

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Those players stayed behind and formed their own club, the “New York Nine.” On June 19 1846 these two different teams (from the same firehouse) played at Elysian Fields (thus giving us the name “field” for the site where baseball was played) . The two teams played with Cartwright’s twenty rules. Cartwright’s team, the Knickerbockers, lost 23 to 1 to the New York Nine in four innings (the length of the game being determined by the number of aces, that is, runs, scored by the winning team). Some say that Cartwright’s team lost because his best players did not want to make the trip across the river. Cartwright was the umpire during this game and fined one player six cents for cursing.

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Over the next few years, the rules of baseball spread throughout the country. Baseball fast became a popular sport and drew spectators by the thousands – with reports of scores being written up in local newspapers. Cartwright’s rules would soon become part of the rules of the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1857, and gradually evolved into those used today. You can see, if you know the rules, that the core was there from the beginning.

What else can I use as a food to celebrate the first official game of baseball other than the hot dog? Unfortunately I’ve already waxed lyrical on the subject on several occasions. For example: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/rocky-horror-picture-show-opens/ Here People magazine comes to my rescue with an article on crazy foods available at MLB locations. Here’s the Crab Mac ‘n Cheese Dog from Oriole Park.

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Check out this site for others including The Beast, the Broomstick, the Fiesta Dog, and the Krispy Kreme Donut Dog.

http://www.people.com/people/greatideas/gallery/0,,20907771,00.html#30310008